A common problem I’m faced with, as a mentor to students with disabilities, is that a majority of them have experienced bullying. To help with that, I’ve often told them about celebrities who have overcome bullying in their childhoods. For that reason, people such as Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lawrence have become inspirations to them. Then, a movie came out called “Central Intelligence” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart. Many of my mentees were inspired by the underlying message of the film: that you shouldn’t bully others.
Because of this, when I heard Kevin Hart was coming into town, I wanted to meet him in the hopes of telling him how this film had made an impact on my mentees.
But then something I wasn’t expecting happened.
Kevin Hart, who I met at a book signing for his new book, said when he arrived in that NYC bookstore:
“I’m the person that dealt with the word no for a long time. I’m the person that dealt with a lot of negativity and adversity that people don’t know about. I wanted to share this story so you guys could understand that regardless of your position in life… you’re human… One of the things I did was never give up on one thing that’s very simple, that’s my dream.”
To hear him say that truly resonated with me. Growing up on the autism spectrum, I was often told the word “no.” I was often told growing up that I couldn’t achieve amazing things in my life because of my disability. Although my path and Kevin’s path were different, I can now say as someone who has lived his dream of being an international motivational speaker, I’ve been able to live my dreams today just like Kevin.
When I got to meet him, I was absolutely speechless. He met me with open arms, giving me a hug, asking me about my story and then taking a photo with me to boot. I told him first about how I was told, just like him that I couldn’t things in my life but I preserved. I told him I could achieve greatness in my life. The three words he said to me still resonate after I said that:
“Yes you can.”
For a celebrity like Kevin to look me in the eye and tell me I could do amazing things in my life truly meant the world to me. While I continued to speak with him and told him how he inspired my mentees, he said, “That’s the greatest compliment I could ever ask to receive.”
It’s people like Kevin who truly made me realize the power of humility. Kevin, who had hundreds of people out to see him that night, gave me the time to talk with him. He didn’t rush me off, and every minute I spoke with him, he was actively listening to me like I was a dear friend who had known him for decades.
To Kevin, I thank you for treating me not only as a fan, but a friend in that moment. I hope we can only to continue to pursue our dreams in the future. You bring so much laughter and joy to so many people, and I can only hope to bring love and inclusion to our community. I can’t thank you enough.
Kerry Magro is an international speaker on the autism spectrum. A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com here.